My return to the competitive chess world begins in about two weeks, at the Manhattan Open. For the first time in maybe my entire life, I’m actually excited to play in a chess tournament. I’ve rediscovered a love for the game that never existed in my youth. Here are my goals for my chess career, and as long as I fulfill these, nothing else matters:
1. Do everything possible to outwork your opponents, both at home and at the board.
There is nothing worse in chess than being called “talented” once you are past the age of 16-18. I can name a bunch of “talented” players, and the one thing these players have in common is that they all failed to live up to their potential. Saying “such and such is really talented” is basically saying “if only they weren’t a lazy sack of shit, they would probably be really good at chess”. Needless to say I got called talented at times…no more insults please. From now on I want to be known as the untalented guy who just studies all the time and that’s the only reason why I’m any good.
2. Don’t worry about winning or losing:
In order for me to be happy playing chess, it’s very important to seperate myself from the result. The only things that matter are that I put my all into a chess game, and that I’ve studied properly before the game has begun. As long as I do that, everything else is meaningless. If I hang a piece….so what? I’m obviously going to make huge blunders sometimes, no one can avoid that, it’s going to happen, and to get upset or down on yourself when it happens is pointless. Also I just want to enjoy moving the pieces around….sitting around being obsessed with winning and losing makes chess a lot less enjoyable. Despite that I’ll try to win every game, it just won’t be a problem if I don’t win. This kind of attitude is very hard to keep in a results-oriented world such as chess, and being around other people that are so results obsessed, but I’ll find a way to ignore all the annoying people.
Also since I’m going to be doing a decent amount of teaching, both with private students (the number of whom will be extremely limited, so if you want me as a coach you better hurry), and US Chess School Camps, my losing games are going to be extremely important. I am going to enjoy and get excited to show off all of my losses, as they are almost certainly better learning opportunities for both myself, and the people I’m showing the games to.
3. Make no excuses to avoid playing chess:
When I was younger I was basically a disgrace. So often I would just not feel like playing in the middle of a tournament, and do stupid stuff like offer draws on move 7, or just play extremely quickly so I could go hang out with my friends. One time I played a game ensuring that I used no more than 30 minutes for the entire game so that I could watch a playoff football game. There are a few guarantees as a chessplayer. You are going to be exhausted sometimes before/during a game. You are going to not feel like playing before/during a game for various reasons. And you are going to get sick during a tournament sometimes. These are all guaranteed to occur on occasion, and it’s important to me that I take these moments as opportunities to be strong, instead of opportunities to make excuses when I lose. Sure it will likely cause me to play at less than 100% capacity, but I’m going to take pride in doing everything possible to play my best, regardless of how I feel.
4. Avoid all pointless social interaction at chess tournaments:
Hanging out with other people and having conversations with people during a serious chess tournament is tiring and exhausting. If you read this blog and try to make small talk with me when I’m in the middle of competing in a chess tournament and you barely know me, don’t be surprised if I’m very short with you. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to share a meal with anyone. I want to play chess, I want to go take my computer and analyze the game as soon as it’s over and then I want to relax before the next game. I don’t want to waste a second of energy doing anything that isn’t related to the tournament.I spent way too much time being nice and being social at chess tournaments when I was young. No more, talk to me when the tournament is over.
5. Take pride in pointless games:
My big goal is to play some tournament, suck bigtime, losing a bunch of games..maybe one or two to much weaker players, and then be paired with someone 300 points lower rated than me in the last round. Then I want to sit there, and get excited to play a good game, and work my ass off in that final round. No withdrawing, no being embarrassed that I’m sucking….I’m going to play one game of chess as hard as I can.
So these are some of my goals. I didn’t even mention anything about not taking draws, because that’s too obvious to even write about. I have the advantage of being able to look back at my former career, and hopefully avoid all of the pitfalls that made me perform less than my best, and also made me not enjoy the act of playing in chess tournaments. I don’t know how I played so many slow chess games without enjoying a single one. I enjoyed them after the fact after I beat a strong player, but during play, all I could think about was doing everything possible to win, and fearing how unpleasant it would feel to lose. It wasn’t fun, I didn’t enjoy the process…I only enjoyed the winning. For someone like me, who has lived such a comfortable life the past eight years, there’s obviously no chance that I’m going back to an environment like that. I’m ready, prepared and excited to lose to you. Just as long as I put every ounce of my soul into the game before you crush me.
Also becoming a GM is not really a goal. It’s more of a necessity because there are all these convenient perks to becoming a GM. I will play in GM norm tournaments on a regular basis so that I’ll end up becoming a GM by accident. I’m not going to focus on it other than that though. What I really want to do is just enjoy playing chess. Right now I’m enjoying studying chess to a degree that I never knew was possible. I want to get to 2500 FIDE. Then I want to see if I can get to 2550. Then let’s see if I can get to 2600 FIDE. (admittedly that will be very tough….but 2550 I believe I can accomplish). And even if I never gain a single rating point, I want to have fun playing. Fortunately I know that I’m pretty good and probably I’ll have a few successes here and there
Anyway see you all in two weeks. I’m going to write a post tournament report for USCFOnline, so check it out.